The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the number of measles cases in Europe has grown by 400% in the last year. This astonishing growth has taken the total cases to 21,315 for the whole of 2017. As if this wasn’t already a staggering figure, things are made even worse by the fact that in 2016 there were only 5,237 cases - a record low for measles.
This is troubling news as measles is a potentially life-threatening problem. More often than not, it’s spread via coughing and sneezing, much like a common cold. The symptoms are fairly similar too, but you also have a high temperature, itchy red eyes, and a rash on your body. In most cases, measles will clear within a week or two, but there have been many reported deaths due to complications with the virus.
For anyone traveling to Europe, this obviously poses a fairly significant problem. Nobody wants to go somewhere if there’s an outbreak of a pretty serious disease floating about. Particularly when cases of the disease are rising. You may be wondering; why is measles on the rise, and is it still safe to travel to Europe? Both of these questions will be answered as we take a look at the measles outbreak in further detail.
Countries With The Worst Measles Outbreaks
It’s thought that the current measles outbreak in Europe is affecting around 15 different countries. This includes popular tourist destinations such as the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Greece. It’s worth noting that in five of those countries, the measles cases are below 1,000 for the last year.
However, Italy ranks in the top three countries with over 5,000 cases in 2017. In fact, the only country with more cases was Romania. Ukraine is another country with thousands of cases, and these three places are thought to be the main source of the virus.
Romania is struggling the most, and it has the worst measles outbreak the country has ever seen. If you’re thinking of traveling to any of these severely affected countries, then extra precautions are highly recommended.
A Lack Of Vaccinations & Poor Healthcare
When you look at the reasons for this outbreak, two things stand out the most; a lack of vaccinations and poor healthcare. In the most afflicted countries, it’s found that fewer people are getting the measles vaccine.
For those that don’t know, this disease is entirely preventable if you get a simple MMR vaccine to protect you against measles, mumps and rubella. Unfortunately, in many countries, people are avoiding this vaccine for various reasons. Most outbreaks take place in low-income areas, so it’s argued that the people getting the virus don’t have the means to get vaccinated in the first place. As a consequence, this links to the point about poor healthcare, with many countries failing to supply basic needs to their population.
Another reason for lack of vaccinations - particularly in Italy - is because of opposition to vaccines. Italy is a very religious country, with many Roman Catholics being against vaccinations in general. There are big groups of people that are actively choosing to avoid vaccinations as they believe there are some health risks involved.
With fewer people getting the MMR vaccine, it means you have more people traveling around Europe that could carry the measles virus and spread it without knowing. This is how the mass European outbreak began, as people visited countries, contracted the virus, and brought it back home with them.
Staying Safe On Your European Travels This Year
It’s not suggested that you put off any European travels until this outbreak is under control. There’s no telling how long this can take, but what we do know is that you can easily protect yourself from measles. As mentioned earlier, all it takes is a simple MMR vaccination, and you can prevent the spreading of this disease.
Generally speaking, most people are vaccinated against measles when they’re younger. Children are given two doses of the MMR vaccine at a young age, and this is enough to prevent the disease for life.
If you’ve never been vaccinated, and have never had measles before, then you are in the high-risk category of people. It’s essential that you don’t travel outside of Canada until you’ve had two doses of the MMR vaccine. It’s available to both adults and children and will help prevent the spread of measles from Europe to Canada.
The measles outbreak in Europe is due, in large part, to decreasing immunization rates. There’s no need to worry about measles if you get the MMR vaccine before you travel, or if you already have it.